The Guide to Ha’apai for Families(c) Matafonua Lodge - Tonga Ministry of Tourism
The Guide to Ha’apai for Families

The Travel Guide to Ha’apai for Families

(c) Matafonua Lodge – Tonga Ministry of Tourism

How to Plan a Family Trip to Ha’apai

Some 62 virtually untouched islands await in the central island group of Tonga. Ha’apai is home to warm and clear water, vibrant culture and some interesting historical sites. For families, a visit here can be utterly relaxing with a serious amount of beach time on some of the best beaches in Tonga, as well as educational and active through a range of exciting experiences. Head out on the water with your kayak and snorkel gear, be captivated by Tongan dancing, check out some of the interesting historical sites around the island, stay in thatched beach huts, and the list goes on! We’ll go through all of it and more in the travel guide to Ha’apai for families.

Top 10 Family Activities in Ha’apai

What does a family getaway to Ha’apai look like? Here’s a quick overview of just 10 things to do in Tonga’s central island group with kids:

  1. Watch whales on a whale watching tour
  2. Check out the tropical fish by snorkelling from your resort
  3. Go on a family mission in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard
  4. Enjoy a cultural show and umu night
  5. Explore the islands on horseback
  6. Head out on a family fishing trip
  7. Do some reef walking
  8. Build sandcastles on the beach
  9. Check out some of the historical sites
  10. Drink from a coconut.

For more details on each experience, see the 10 Best Things To Do in Ha’apai with Kids. Otherwise, we have more details on the highlights below…

The Travel Guide to Ha'apai for Families©

How to Get to Ha’apai

With most families arriving in Tonga through Tongatapu, the easiest way to get to Ha’apai is by taking a plane or the passenger ferry from this arrival island. Flights are advised for ease of travel and transport during the day. Most ferry crossings are throughout the night, which generally makes for grumpy kids.

Ha’apai by Plane

Flights go back and forth between Tongatapu and Ha’apai around two times a day, except for Sundays. Flights are from the domestic terminal in Fua’amotu Airport on Tongatapu and land at Salote Pilolevu Airport, 3 km (1.9 mi) north of the main town of Ha’apai, Pangai. The journey lasts approximately 50 minutes and offers the quickest and often most convenient way to get between the islands. For more essential info on catching a flight, check out The Guide to Domestic Flights in Tonga.

Ha’apai by Ferry

Offering a cheaper alternative to get to Ha’apai, there are ferries departing from Taufa’ahau Tupou IV Domestic Wharf in Nuku’alofa. The ferry services stop at several destinations in Ha’apai on their Monday-to-Saturday runs between Tongatapu and Vava’u, including Nomuka, Tungua, Matuku, Ha’afeva, Uiha and Taufa’ahau Wharf on Lifuka. Travel times to Ha’apai from Tongatapu are approximately 8 to 12 hours. For more advice on prices and schedules, head to The Guide to Interisland Ferry Travel in Tonga.

How to Get Around Ha’apai

With the islands of Ha’apai being so remote with limited infrastructure, most travellers rely on their chosen accommodation for transport. Resorts will pick you up and drop you off at the airport, which needs to be arranged before arrival.

Car rentals are also available in Ha’apai to explore the islands of Lifuka and Foa, which are connected by a causeway. Some resorts on these islands also offer bicycle rentals for guests.

Should you want to visit one of the outer islands, boat charters can be arranged. Learn more about getting around Ha’apai in the Ha’apai Transport Guide: 5 Ways to Get to & Around Ha’apai.

The Guide to Ha’apai for Families(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Water Activities for Families

You didn’t come all the way to the tropics to spend all of your time on land. Truly, most of the action is out on the water which is teeming with life and even home to humpback whales between July and October. Here are just some family-friendly ways to spend some time on the water…


Many of Ha’apai’s resorts offer amazing snorkelling straight from the beach! Make use of the free snorkelling masks and snorkels from resorts, such as at Kitesurf Tonga, Serenity Beaches Resort, Sea Change Eco Retreat and Matafonua Lodge. Then, head out as a family to explore the coral bommies and tropical fish in Ha’apai’s crystal clear waters. For instance, Matafonua Lodge has its own “House Reef” in a shallow lagoon ideal for safe swimming with the kids, whereas Kitesurf Tonga has beautiful snorkelling right by the beach. Sea Change Eco Retreat also offers snorkelling boat tours to some of the must-visit outer reefs, best done with older children who are confident swimmers. See The Best Snorkelling in Ha’apai: 6 Best Places to Snorkel for specific locations.

Kayaking and Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Another way to get out on the water with even the younger children is by hiring a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. Teach your kids how to paddle on the safety of Ha’apai’s tranquil waters, while looking at the amazing marine life seen through the clear water. Younger kids can couple up with mum or dad easily on a paddleboard or kayak. Kayak and SUP hire is a staple at most resorts in Ha’apai. See a list of resorts with kayaks in The Guide to Kayaking in Tonga and SUP boards in The Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Tonga.

Fishing, whale watching, sailing and more can be enjoyed around Ha’apai, so learn more about water activities with the kids in the 10 Best Things to Do in Ha’apai with Kids.

The Guide to Ha’apai for Families(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Land Activities for Families

If you do manage to pull your kids away from the water which, trust us, is a challenge, then there are some fantastic land experiences to enjoy as a family.

Horse Riding

What kid doesn’t love animal encounters? Horse riding is a part of everyday life in Ha’apai where horses are still used on the islands as a form of transport! Matafonua Lodge offers guests, including children, the opportunity to for an island-style horse trek (i.e. bareback) or they have saddles if you prefer. Embark on a journey through tropical forests or across sandy beaches, even taking your horse for a swim. Learn more about the experience in The Guide to Horse Riding in Tonga.

Umu and Tongan Floor Show

Nothing captivates the kids (and arguably Mum and Dad too) more than watching Tongan men perform a warrior’s dance or women gracefully using their hands to tell a story! Just a small part of a Tongan floor show and umu night, these evening shows include an array of cultural dances, as well as the opportunity to sample authentic Tongan cuisine prepared in an underground oven known as an “umu”. And in true Tongan spirit, you will be encouraged to eat more than is reasonable although there are usually a few Western favourites should you have fussy eaters in your tribe. Check out all floor shows available in Ha’apai in The Best Cultural Shows in Tonga.

More Things to Do in Ha’apai

From whale watching to reef walking, there are plenty of more ways to experience Ha’apai with your loved ones. Get more inspiration from the 10 Best Things to Do in Ha’apai with Kids. And for experiences that don’t necessarily fall into the “family” category but are just as enticing, check out the 20 Best Things to Do in Ha’apai.

The Travel Guide to Ha'apai for Families©

Dining in Ha’apai

Ha’apai are relatively underdeveloped islands, so you won’t exactly find a new restaurant every evening – and that’s the beauty of it! The more remote resorts share meals family-style in their dining fales, while families on a budget even have the opportunity to self-cater. And if all else fails, there are a few eateries on Lifuka and Foa islands.

Restaurants on Lifuka and Foa Islands

Ha’apai’s main centre, Pangai, has a couple of eateries including Lucky Pot Restaurant located at the Pangai Market. They specialise in pele dishes made with local spinach, as well as fast food. Head there on a Friday for pizzas and burgers. They are open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 6 pm and Saturday from 8:30 am to 3 pm.

It would be a crime to spend time in Pangai and not treat the kids to ice cream! RayLela’s Cake & Ice Cream Shop (Hala Holopeka Road near the Visitor Information Centre) scoops up a wide range of New Zealand ice cream flavours, while baked goods are usually made to order. ReyLela’s is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm.

Nestled among coconut palms of the beachfront approximately 400 m (400 yards) south of Hihifo, Leleno ki Moana meaning “Run to the Ocean”, is a quirky beach hut restaurant serving quality meals for an affordable price. Delight in fresh fish and chips, burgers, authentic curries, Tongan dishes and more, all lovingly presented on timber boards and banana leaves. You’ll hardly get a more island vibe! Find them open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm and Wednesday from 9 am to 4 pm.

Finally, call ahead for Matafonua Lodge‘s (Foa Island) burgers, seafood tacos and, most famously, their pizzas. They are open to non-guests for lunch and dinner outside of the whale season or will accept non-guests who call and order ahead during the whale season.

Meals at Uoleva Island Resorts

Those staying on the uninhabited Uoleva Island only have their chosen resort’s meal offerings for dining. Meals are typically a set menu each day, which you’ll either pay as you go or have included in your resort rate as a compulsory meal plan. It is fundamental that you advise your resort of any dietary requirements prior to arrival. Diana Beach Resort and Serenity Beaches Resort have kitchens for guest use.

Self-Catering in Ha’apai

Stick to a budget and enjoy the pleasures of preparing meals for the family using local ingredients by staying in one of the self-catering accommodations and making use of the abundance of grocery stores and the market in Pangai.

For more about dining, meal plans, self-catering and more, head to The Food Guide to Ha’apai: Places to Eat & Food Tours.

More About Ha’apai for Families

That’s it for the complete travel guide to Ha’apai for families, but it’s by no means the end of our advice! Check out the guides below for more useful tips on planning the ultimate escape to Ha’apai:

Finally, get even more inspiration for your family getaway with The Travel Guide to Tonga for Families and the 10 Best Things to Do in Tonga with Kids.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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